The Pacific coast of Costa Rica is fast becoming one of the hippest spots on the backpack merry-go-round. It’s a surfer’s paradise in Central America’s most laid-back holiday spot. Areas such as the Nicoya peninsula and Dominical further to the south are the real hotspots where the beaches are sublime and trees and rocks tumble down the meet the fine, white sand – Costa Rica has a reputation for its magnificent flora and fauna and there’s nothing to be disappointed about on that score here. Pelicans and frigate birds wheel overhead as the booming calls of howler monkeys resound from the nearby rainforests. For those not satisfied by the ocean alone there are also numerous hikes in the region and due to Costa Rica’s relatively small size you are never far away from the eco-tourism centres further inland.
Sticking out like a spare limb into the temperate waters of the Pacific, Nicoya has a myriad of unspoiled beaches where the breakers roll in consistently offering great surfing for all levels of ability whether you’re a pale rookie paddling out for the first time or a sun-gnarled veteran. It is this variety that makes the area perfect for one of the world’s fastest growing sports and the region has had a fantastic reputation in the worldwide surfing community. A few years ago villages such as Santa Teresa were no more than a few fishing huts clustered together but with the boom of tourism in the area numerous services are now provided by locals offering the dusty streets a ramshackle charm – a perfect setting for the laid-back surfers and the ever-growing community of young visitors. For those just wishing to hang out then there a numerous beach restaurants and beer shacks where laid back tunes and chilled cerveza set the tone for the after hours entertainment.
Further to the South lies Dominical, probably Costa Rica’s most famous surfing grounds. It’s slightly less isolated than the Nicoya region offering easy access to the surrounding national parks and also the nation’s capital, San José. The area is famed for its “surf camps” where surfing, accommodation food and activities are all included in the package and is a great way for beginners to get into the sport and even for experienced surfers who get the chance for tips from local instructors. The region has begun to develop but by no means to the extent that we are used to in big European resorts, eco-lodges are the typical accommodation here and the focus is on preserving an area of immense natural beauty. Whether surfing Dominical’s famous breaks or just chilling on the beach you’ll find the area is as close to paradise as you’re likely to get in Costa Rica. It’s also worth noting that it’s not just surfing that’s on the activities list on Costa Rica’s pacific coast, the whole area is a huge aquatic playground; waters teeming with fish and other life mean great scuba diving and yes, you guessed it, great fishing with many local boats taking tourists out on the hunt for tuna, wahoo, marlin and other big game.
There are even language schools opening to cater for the influx of young travellers (an excellent example of this is http://www.babylon-idiomas.com/ with a great presence in mainland Spain and Latin America) – no longer solely the domain of evening classes in the UK, learning a second language these days is all about cultural immersion. The message is “why not learn Spanish whilst you’re learning to surf or dive?” and with much of Central and South America now more open to tourism there’s no better time to learn the skills to make yourself understood whilst enjoying the more obvious pursuits open to travellers.
For the last five years Mike McDougall has been working as a travel writer and marketeer. He's currently working for a Spanish language School (http://www.babylon-idiomas.com/ ) to provide additional cultural and travel related material on Spain and Latin America. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/uk/